Your typical Sunday night might not involve a documentary that deals with grief and death, but these four award-winning and nominated Netflix documentaries are sure to give you *all the feels*. You’ll be left thinking about the people in them long after the credits roll.
End Game (2018)
Feels: Heartbreaking, powerful, moving and truly human.
This short documentary film by Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman centres on terminally ill patients in a San Francisco hospital. Patients and their families meet with a palliative care team who seek to change the perception around life and death and make the journey as pain free and as peaceful as possible.
The care team practitioners are phenomenal – you’ll be marvelling at their devotion to their patients and how they manage to practise their craft with humanity top-of-mind. Dr. Steve Pantilat in particular gives a new meaning to bedside manner. He’s the cheerful doctor you’d certainly want by your side during these tough conversations; you’d want him on your team. A more spiritual perspective is explored through the lens of the calming Dr. B.J. Miller. “There’s nothing inherently medical about dying,” he says. “It’s much larger than medicine. It’s purely human…”
It’s comforting for viewers to know that this is just a sliver of the wonderful doctors, nurses, social workers, chaplains and other end-of-life specialists who work in palliative care. Consolation can be found in the many talented medical professionals who guide and treat terminally ill patients and their families with sensitivity and compassion.
End Game was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Documentary (Short Subject) at the 91st Academy Awards and for the Short Film Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival.
You can watch the trailer here.
Feels: Raw, honest, emotional, insightful.
“Here’s the reality. We’re all gonna die. Everyone standing in this room is gonna die one day. And it’s good to have a little bit of a say in how.” - Dr Jessica Zitter
A number of Netflix documentaries examine end-of-life and the ethical decisions that doctors and patients’ families have to make at that time. Extremis is one of them.
The medical definition of ‘extremis’ is ‘at the point of death’ – a fitting title for a documentary set in the Highland Hospital ICU in Oakland, California. It follows Dr Jessica Zitter, a palliative care specialist who leads a team that helps families make informed end-of-life decisions for their loved ones, who are often battling terminal illnesses. We watch as the doctors grapple with ethical qualms, trying to decide if saving a patient would cause more suffering than good, and other ethical dilemmas that crop up in the ICU on a daily basis.
Extremis is raw and confronting, but there are beautiful moments peppered into it too. This 40-minute documentary can be heartbreaking viewing at times, but it’s also extremely moving.
Extremis was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary (Short Subject) in 2017 and won the Best Documentary Short award at the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival.
You can watch the trailer here.
100 Days With Tata (2021)
Feels: Funny, Unique, Feel-Good, Emotional
If you’re a cinephile, you might already be familiar with Spanish actor and singer Miguel Ángel Muñoz. But you likely haven’t yet met his adorable Tata, who became an Instagram star in the throes of a city-wide COVID-19 lockdown.
100 Days With Tata literally found its title when Muñoz moved into his 95-year-old Tata’s tiny flat for 100+ days. Although Tata is not actually Muñoz's grandmother, she is a relative of his. The feel-good documentary shows the love, care and hardships involved with caring for a loved one full-time.
It’s fascinating to be invited into Miguel’s online therapy sessions, which he documents throughout. In them, he grapples with his Tata’s eventual death, and learns how to manage the feelings of knowing it’s going to come, but not being sure how to deal with it when it eventually does. The themes explored in this documentary will be all too familar to those who have close relationships with grandparents and ageing parents.
The result is a heartwarming documentary about two adults who have so much love for one another. Their honesty, hilarity and powerful bond makes for a beautiful relationship, and a must watch movie.
100 Days With Tata has won three awards – including the CEC Award for Best New Director and the José María Forqué Award for Best Documentary.
You can watch the trailer here. Tip: You may need to click Settings > Subtitles/CC > Auto-Translate > English.
It’s difficult enough to come to terms with the death of your loved ones, let alone your own. But this scary thing called death is a certainty for all of us one day. Knowing it’s inevitable doesn’t make it any easier though. So when you’re looking for some helpful insight or if your are interested in learning more about this topic, head to Netflix and flick on these 3 thought-provoking documentaries for adults. You might just find that once you’ve delved into the topic a bit more, you’ll feel more at peace.
Dr. B.J. Miller put it best; “We are wired to run away from death. But dying is a part of life.” And that it is.